Most teenagers lie more often than they think they do. Although lying is considered intentionally manipulative and deceptive, the only things most lies damage is trust in a relationship. Your lying teenager may have a laundry list of reasons to defend why he has lied to your face, but it is not your responsibility to catch them in the middle of a lie or to overanalyze how much of what they do tell you is true. For some teens, lying, especially by omission, comes by second nature or out of a desire to protect you from the truth. They do not understand the impact that is has on your relationship. Building back trust is a process that requires mutual effort.
Why Do Teens Lie To Parents?
- They think details don’t matter.
- They think you won’t notice or that they’d get away with it.
- They don’t think you need to know the full truth.
- They want to protect themselves.
- To avoid consequences of the truth.
- They’re either lying by omission or minimizing details rather than making them up.
- They want to hide their risk-taking and rule-breaking from you.
- They don’t trust you either.
When Does Lying Become Problematic?
There are a variety of reasons why teens may lie to their parents. Many may sound like excuses, but many of them are valid responses to fear in your relationship. Trust is a two-way street. While you may not trust them out of concern for their safety, they might perceive your mistrust as a sign that you are overbearing or have unrealistically high expectations for them. While you may believe their lies are a sign of defiance and disloyalty, they may believe they’re protecting you or themselves.
According to a study conducted by DirecTV, the most-told “white lie” is “I’m fine.” Although only 26.54% of participants believed it was considered a real lie, this is problematic for teenagers struggling with mental health issues who are scared to reach out to their parents for support and lie to avoid having to confront the problems they’re having, not to avoid punishment from their parents. Although most teens lie about doing homework, who they’re texting, and what they do when they hang out with friends, whether parents should be concerned about what they might be hiding depends on the individual. Some teens might be afraid to admit they’re failing a class, hooking up with a guy they met online, or smoking marijuana on the weekends, while others who may be managing well just don’t think their parents need to be as involved in their lives as they used to be.
How to Build Back Trust
- Focus on the principle of trust. Express how you believe your relationship has been affected by lying. Ask them to share their perspective as well. Move away from considering lying a behavioral issue and consider what influences it as a behavior.
- Explain the benefits of trust in a relationship. They may be used to you responding to their lies with consequences and see the only potential benefit of building trust as avoiding conflict. They may not expect to experience or even appreciate more privileges, independence, or emotional support from you.
- Role model trustworthiness by treating others with respect, following through with commitments, setting boundaries, and being transparent when necessary. By giving trust first, they may be more likely to see you as someone they can trust too.
- Give positive reinforcement for qualities you admire in them as well as achievements you are proud of. Focusing on the positive builds their self-esteem and motivates them to keep trying rather than pointing out disappointments.
- Be patient. Remember that building trust is a process that builds slowly and can be broken down easily. You may catch them in a lie every few conversations that you have, but focus on the amount of conversations you can have that are not based on secrecy and defensiveness. Trust comes with time.
How blueFire Wilderness Can Help
blueFire Wilderness is a wilderness therapy program for teens, ages 11 to 17, grappling with depression, bullying, anxiety, ADHD, smartphone addiction, and other emotional or behavioral problems. We understand that dealing with a lying teenager is difficult and challenging for the whole family, but we’re here to guide you through it. We incorporate adventure therapy and family therapy into the program to help students build confidence, improve communication skills, and gain leadership skills that help them repair relationships and rebuild trust with their parents. Our goal is to help teenagers rediscover their inner spark.
For more information about treatment for a lying teenager at blueFire Wilderness, please call 1 (844) 413-1999 today.